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Li-Ning Teams up with ATP
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First it was the Spanish Olympic men's and women's basketball team. Then came the NBA's official marketing partner and the signing of Cleveland Cavaliers player Damon Jones.

Now joining the bandwagon is the ATP, the world's governing body for professional men's tennis.

Chinese sporting goods giant Li-Ning is putting its efforts in high gear to become a famous global brand by linking up with high-profile partners.

Yesterday Li-Ning Sports Good Co Ltd, named after former Chinese legendary gymnastics prince Li Ning, signed a partnership contract with ATP, thus becoming the official Chinese marketing partner of the organization which oversees the world's highest level of tennis.

In the near future, some elite ATP players may possibly sport Li-Ning brands during Grand Slam tournaments.

ATP regional CEO Brad Drewett, who brought the ATP Masters Cup to China, said that his organization was proud to be a partner with such a famous company as Li-Ning, calling it a sporting giant in China.

"Hopefully, the partnership will become a major influence and a driving force in the sport of tennis in China," said Drewett, a former Australian professional player.

Drewett won two singles and six doubles titles during his 14 years of pro tennis. In March 1984, he became the highest-ranked Australian player at 34th place for singles and 18th in the doubles. He retired in 1990.

He said the partnership will help lure more Chinese to the tennis courts.

"And hopefully, in the very near future, we can see Chinese players wearing Li-Ning shirts to be ranked among the world's top 10," Drewett added.

Under the contract, Li-Ning will have the exclusive rights to make, sell and promote Li-Ning products with both Li-Ning and ATP logos covering sportswear, shoes and accessories. Products with Li-Ning and ATP logos will appear in tennis promotions hosted by ATP.

In events and marketing promotions, ATP and Li-Ning will put forward two events - the Li-Ning ATP Challenger Series and Li-Ning ATP Smash Tennis. The series is for the development of the young players while the smash tennis event is for the child players to get close with the pro athletes.

More importantly, ATP will help Li-Ning to sign the world's top players.

Though it is still too early to predict how long it will take for the top ATP players to wear Li-Ning brands, the more realistic expectation is that tennis fans in China will have easy access to ATP products, especially during the ATP Masters Cup in Shanghai in November.

(China Daily March 17, 2006)

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